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Living with COPD: Pulse Oximeter for Lung Health

October 29, 2021 5 min read

Living with COPD: Pulse Oximeter for Lung Health

Do you experience shortness of breath every time you climb stairs or run errands? Your environment and daily exposure to irritants have a significant impact on your lung health, making you susceptible to chronic lung conditions. One such condition is COPD, which causes a decrease in oxygen saturation, making it difficult to breathe easily.

This article discusses everything about COPD, how it can be managed, and how pulse oximeters can help assess the severity of COPD.

What Is COPD?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) refers to a group of chronic lung diseases that cause shortness of breath because of obstructed airflow from the lungs. COPD occurs when your airways become narrowed, and the air gets trapped in the chest, making it difficult for air to move in and out of your lungs. As a result, the lungs cannot take enough oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide [1].

The most common COPD diseases are emphysema and chronic bronchitis, which can sometimes occur together.

Emphysema: In emphysema, the air sacs in your lungs are destroyed, and as a result, their ability to take up oxygen into your bloodstream is affected. The breakdown of air sacs results in air trapped in your lungs, resulting in impaired breathing [2].

Chronic Bronchitis: Bronchitis is the inflammation of bronchial tubes, which are responsible for carrying air to and from the lungs. People who have chronic bronchitis often produce phlegm or sputum [3].

Symptoms Of COPD:

Shortness of breath is the most common symptom of COPD. Symptoms may be mild in the beginning but can worsen if left unchecked. Some early symptoms include:

  • Recurrent cough
  • Producing more phlegm or sputum, especially in the morning.
  • Occasional shortness of the breath

When the lungs are more damaged, symptoms may worsen and be hard to ignore. Some worsening symptoms include:

  • Chest tightness
  • Frequent coughing with or without energy
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath even when doing mild exercise
  • Frequent colds and respiratory infections

Causes Of COPD:

COPD is caused by a number of factors, including:

  1. Smoking:Cigarette smoking results in 85-90% of all COPD cases. The more cigarettes you smoke, the greater are your risks of getting COPD. The cigarette smoke causes swelling in bronchial tubes, narrows air passages, destroys air sacs, and weakens the lungs' defense against infections, thus contributing to COPD [4].


  1. Alpha-1 Deficiency:Some people experience a rare form of COPD, called alpha-1 deficiency-related emphysema, caused by a genetic condition that affects the body's ability to produce Alpha-1, a protein that protects the lungs. It is estimated that about 5% of the cases with COPD are deficient in Alpha-1.


  1. The Environment:Another cause that plays an important role in developing COPD is what you breathe every day. Exposure to fumes and chemicals, smoke and dust, and air pollution can cause COPD.

How Is COPD Diagnosed?

COPD is diagnosed on the basis of medical history, physical examination, and some breathing tests.

  1. Medical History:Your doctor will ask the following questions to diagnose COPD:
  • Do you have a family history of COPD?
  • Do you smoke or have smoked in the past?
  • Do you cough up phlegm?
  • Have you been wheezing or coughing for a long time?
  • Have you been exposed to dust or air pollution for a long time?
  • Do you experience shortness of breathing while exercising?


  1. Physical Exam: The physical exam includes:
  • Examining your nose and throat
  • Checking your pulse and blood pressure
  • Listening to your lungs and heartbeat using a stethoscope
  • Checking your ankles and feet for swelling


  1. Tests:The diagnosis of COPD also includes breathing tests like:


  • Spirometry, which is a noninvasive test to examine how your lungs work. During this test, you take a deep breath and blow the air into a tube attached to the spirometer [5].
  • Chest CT scan and X-ray to notice any changes in the lungs.
  • Areterial blood gas (ABG) test to measure oxygen saturation, carbon dioxide.

Treatment For COPD:

The treatment of COPD depends on the symptoms and causes, such as breathing problems and coughing. Your doctor may recommend you [6]:

  • Oxygen Therapy:If you have low O2 saturation, supplemental oxygen is provided with the help of a nasal cannula or mask to ease breathing.


  • Surgery:When other treatments fail, surgery is the option for treating severe COPD. Surgical methods include lung transplantation and bullectomy (surgical removal of abnormal air sacs from the lungs.


  • Medications:Medications for treating COPD include corticosteroids, phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors, antibiotics & antivirals, theophylline, and inhaled bronchodilators.

Pulse Oximeters: An Important Tool For Measuring Lung Health:

A pulse oximeter is an electronic, clip-free device that measures the level of O2 saturation carried in your red blood cells. Pulse oximetry is the test that aims at identifying whether your blood is well oxygenated or not.

Pulse oximeters are used for different health conditions like:

  • COPD
  • Lung cancer
  • Pneumonia
  • Asthma
  • Congenital heart disease

Benefits Of Pulse Oximeters:

Pulse oximeters have gained a lot of importance as an accurate measuring tool to check O2 saturation. The benefits of pulse oximeters include:

  • They can monitor O2 saturation during the night in patients with sleep apnea.
  • Their accurate readings can help the doctor decide about effective breathing interventions like ventilators or oxygen therapy.
  • They also assess the safety of physical activity in patients with respiratory infections. Therefore, patients are recommended to wear a pulse oximeter during exercise.
  • They also monitor O2 saturation levels in patients under anesthesia [7].

Mibest Pulse Oximeters are a good choice in helping measure you oxygen saturation rate. 

How To Take A Reading?

Pulse oximeters can be used in inpatient and outpatient settings. They can also be used at home. You can take the reading of pulse oximeter by doing the following:

  • Attach the device to your toe, finger, or earlobe. Make sure you’re not wearing any jewelry.
  • Keep the device on until it measures your pulse and O2 saturation.
  • Once you’ve taken the reading, remove the pulse oximeter.







[1]      Hurd S. The Impact of COPD on Lung Health Worldwide: Epidemiology and Incidence. Chest 2000;117:1S-4S. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1378/chest.117.2_suppl.1S.

[2]      Taraseviciene-Stewart L, Voelkel NF. Molecular pathogenesis of emphysema. J Clin Invest 2008;118:394–402. https://doi.org/10.1172/JCI31811.

[3]      Kim V, Criner GJ. Chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Am J Respir Crit Care Med 2013;187:228–37. https://doi.org/10.1164/rccm.201210-1843CI.

[4]      Laniado-Laborín R. Smoking and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Parallel Epidemics of the 21st Century. Int J Environ Res Public Heal  2009;6. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph6010209.

[5]      Arne M, Lisspers K, Ställberg B, Boman G, Hedenström H, Janson C, et al. How often is diagnosis of COPD confirmed with spirometry? Respir Med 2010;104:550–6. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rmed.2009.10.023.

[6]      Price D, Freeman D, Cleland J, Kaplan A, Cerasoli F. Earlier diagnosis and earlier treatment of COPD in primary care. Prim Care Respir J 2011;20:15–22. https://doi.org/10.4104/pcrj.2010.00060.

[7]      Hoffman JIE. How Accurate Is the Pulse Oximeter, and Does It Matter? Neonatology 2016;109:219–20. https://doi.org/10.1159/000442814.

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